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This was an awful year, but … at least we got some good games? I’m not sure that escaping into digital fantasy worlds is a healthy way to cope with a crumbling society, but it sure does feel good!
This has been one of the strongest years in gaming that I can remember in a good while, and that’s even with Nintendo (probably my favorite game maker) being a bit on the quiet side in 2020. But we got some amazing platformers, triple-A experiences, and remakes this year.
Oh, we also got new game consoles. And despite only being out for a couple of months, the PlayStation 5 was home to a couple of my favorite games in 2020. Now then, let’s get to that list. Here are my 10 favorite games of the year.
10. Streets of Rage 4
I’m GamesBeat’s retro writer, so it probably isn’t a big surprise that I enjoyed Streets of Rage 4. It’s the best brawler that I’ve played since Castle Crashers came out in 2008. Lizardcube does an amazing job with its hand-drawn art, and the game manages to capture that ’90s punk aesthetic that makes the Genesis originals so memorable.
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9. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Here’s a game I didn’t think I would get into. I never was a big Animal Crossing fan. I always found the games to be a little too chill. New Horizons, however, makes the experience feel more like, well, a game. Crafting gives me an incentive to hunt down materials, and the Nook Miles system encourages me to do extra activities. I just needed the designers to give me a bit more direction, and now I understand this series’ simple charm.
8. Ghost of Tsushima
Ghost of Tsushima follows a formula that I often find trite these days. It’s an open-world game that’s all about clearing out objectives that you see on your map. The experience is so tied to your map that I’ve come to calling these “map games.” And, yeah, Tsushima is a map game, but it’s one of the better ones. The story is dramatic and hosts a good assortment of likable characters, and combat features some of the most satisfyingly swordplay I’ve ever experienced in a game.
7. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
I love Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Man, I have missed this series. Sure, this is just a collection of remakes of the first two games, but they’re fantastic upgrades. Developer Vicarious Visions captured that grunge feel of the originals with modern graphics. This is a perfect remake that does just enough to make the experience “new” while not messing with what made the originals so special and fun.
6. Astro’s Playroom
My only real problem with Astro’s Playroom is that it’s short. I get that it’s a bit of a glorified tech demo. But I could have played this game for another 100 hours without getting bored. It’s one of the most charming and pretty 3D platformers that you’ll ever see.
I also had an intense competition with GamesBeat’s PC gaming editor Jeff Grubb over getting the best time in a speedrun challenge, but I lost and don’t want to talk about it.
5. Spider-Man: Miles Morales
I love 2018’s Spider-Man game from Insomniac. This semi-sequel features the same amazing web-swinging and combat mechanics, but it offers a refreshingly new perspective on what it means to be a hero from the earnest and likable Miles Morales. It also lets you explore Manhattan during the holidays, and I do love seeing those digital New York Christmas trees.
4. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
It took decades to get a new Crash Bandicoot game that is any good. Not only is Crash Bandicoot 4 a worthy follow-up to the original trilogy. It’s actually better than those games. It’s About Time is a challenging and creative 3D platforming experience that will be a big hit with anyone who likes these kinds of games.
3. Final Fantasy VII Remake
I was always skeptical of Final Fantasy VII Remake. I love this franchise, and Square Enix has been hit-or-miss when it comes to updating its classic games (don’t ever talk to me about what they’ve done to Final Fantasy VI). Final Fantasy VII Remake, however, is incredible. It subverts expectations in fun and surprising ways, and it manages to combine aspects of the original’s turn-based combat with a new real-time system. Combined with top-tier animation and music, Final Fantasy VII Remake offers an experience that fans of the original can enthusiastically get behind.
Dead Cells showed me how much fun Roguelikes can be in 2018, but Hades takes the fun that comes with those randomly generated dungeon runs and improves the experience with some inspiring art and character work. Long after “beating” Hades, I didn’t want to stop. I literally had to force myself to quit the game.
1. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Blind Forest was my game of the year back in 2015. Of course I looked forward to the sequel, but I remained skeptical that I could love it as much as the first game.
I was wrong.
Will of the Wisps is better than Blind Forest in just about every way. The platforming is more complex and satisfying, and combat gets a huge boost with weapons, abilities, and enemies that force you to strategize and maximize your timing. It also features a wonderful cast of characters that make this world easier to connect with. Will of the Wisps also has one of the best final boss fights and endings I’ve ever seen in any game.
When it comes to everything that I like about this medium, Will of the Wisps is a perfect game.
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